Matthew R. Perry

Four Marks of a Joyful Spirit (Part III: Secure the Joy)

In Devotional, Sermons on November 30, 2007 at 12:01 am

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, November 25, 2007, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. It’s based on Luke 1:39-56. You can listen to the sermon in its entirety by clicking here.)mary-visits-elizabeth.jpg

Chuck Swindoll in his book Living Above the Level of Mediocrity notes:

The world system is committed to at least four major objectives, which I can summarize in four words: fortune, fame, power, pleasure. First and foremost: Fortune, money. The world system is driven by money; it feeds on materialism. Second: Fame. That is another word for popularity. Fame is the longing to be known, to be somebody in someone else’s eyes. Third: Power. This is having influence, maintaining control over individuals or groups or companies or whatever. It is the desire to manipulate and maneuver others to do something for one’s own benefit. Fourth: Pleasure. At its basic level, pleasure has to do with fulfilling one’s sensual desires. It’s the same mindset that’s behind the slogan: “If it feels good, do it.”

One you seize the joy (that is, Jesus!), and once you center the joy (putting Jesus and His Kingdom first), then you must baton down the hatches and secure the joy. Why? Because there will always be something or someone that comes along to try to steal the joy you have in Jesus. Why is this? Why would this happen?

For one (and this is the main one), you are choosing to identify with someone that the world absolutely hates! John 15:18-20

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. [19] If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. [20] Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

Our culture hates the fact that Jesus is seen as the only Savior. And in fact, I will go so far to say that they absolutely hate the grace of God that He offers. Let me tell you why — one word — PRIDE.

I was listening to Tim Keller, a pastor out of New York. He was witnessing to this woman who was trying to process what Keller was saying about God’s grace. Keller noted that so often we need one who is a non-Christian to help us understand certain areas better. Yet this woman understood. She said, “If I am saved by my own works, then there is a limit to what God could ask of me. I could flash my credentials and say, ‘God, I got myself this far on my own, thank you very much.’ But if I am saved completely and totally by His grace and all I have in salvation is of him, then there is nothing that he couldn’t ask of me. I am all his only because of him.”

Look at Mary’s prayer. As I read through this entire prayer, notice what Mary says about the proud, then about the humble — the haves and the have-nots, if you will. Read with me if you will Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
[47] and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
[48] for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
[49] for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
[50] And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
[51] He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
[52] he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
[53] he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
[54] He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
[55] as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Is there nothing he could ask of us? No, nothing. Mary understood as did all of those through church history who understood this from 1 Peter and James: James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Many who call themselves Christians are not humble at all — when they are saved, they live their lives as if the way to be a solid Christian is to read the Bible, pray, go to church, and simply do good ‘spiritual things.’ What happens is, we begin to think we are better than other people because we do these things and hold it over their heads by showing them our checked off checklist.

What do we do? We become aware of the people and circumstances that surround us and run to our soul anchor, Jesus Christ, in order to stay disciplined, steady, and focused on him and him alone. Baton down the hatches! Secure the joy! Stay faithful! Don’t let the thorns of this world choke the joy!

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